A wetsuit is usually made from foamed neoprene and is designed to provide thermal insulation when snorkeling or engaged in other water sports such as scuba diving. Water conducts heat away from the body 20 to 25 times more efficiently than air which is why we rapidly become cold when in water or feel the cooling effects of wind when wet. A wetsuit works by massively slowing the passage of heat from the body to the surrounding water by placing tiny gas bubbles and thermal layers that act to trap or hinder heat loss. This relies on the wetsuit fitting snugly, especially at the seals so to prevent the heated water inside the suit from escaping and cold water from entering. Although flexible neoprene seals help to prevent this it is vitally important that the wetsuit fit well in the first place.
Wetsuits are available in a range of style and thicknesses to suit different water conditions from cooler UK water to warm tropical conditions. The typical snorkelling wetsuit thicknesses are 2.5 to 3mm and 5mm as this will usually cover all of the conditions that a snorkeler is likely to encounter. Thicker suits of up to 7mm thick are available but these are generally overkill for snorkeler and are almost solely used for scuba diving and feature heavier duty semi-dry seals. Please visit our wetsuit advice page for more information regarding which suit type or thickness you might need.
Wetsuits are also available in either short or full length styles. Shorty wetsuits are designed to achieve two purposes which are either produce minimal thermal protection in very warm waters or , alternatively, be used as an additional thermal layer beneath of over a full length wetsuit. Full length suits provide protection from neck to ankles and will feature a varying degree of seal designs and complexity based on the neoprene thickness, ie a thick suit will have more advanced seals to help keep body heat in.